What I learned from my hip abductor meltdown

It’s been a while, hasn’t it.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a chance to extract some lessons from the pain and discomfort from the meltdown on the mat. I am even hesitant to call it an injury because there was no visible damage or impairment, except that in a few poses it would flare up again:

  1. After my injury, I actually had an increased sense of feeling in my left foot (numbness caused by peripheral neuropathy has a problem for me). Of course, with time, the symptom came back because my muscles and tissues tightened up again; in fact, the symptoms have evened out between my two feet.
  2. I also had more feeling in my lower core, which may just be a consequence of focusing more on that part of my body because of the injury.  I am also aware that I pay more attention to the pitch (tilt) of my pelvis.
  3. A few years ago, I would have freaked out that I had hurt myself doing yoga; I would have taken it as a sign that I was not properly aligned, a “bad” practitioner, and had broken the rules. But injuries sometimes are caused not by what we are doing, but what we did in the past, the accumulation of ingrained neuro-myofascial patterns acquired over a lifetime, and when we may break through some of those patterns, it may leave us “flapping in the wind” because the old rigidity was also a support structure; my muscle and tissues did not know what to do with the new freedom so they went into spasms. I now see that as I loosen up my hips, it’s going to affect other parts of my body so I have to remain alert, aware and sensitive to what my body is telling me. And even then I may not avoid injury.
  4. With an injury to something like the hip abductors, it’s really hard to reach down through several layers of muscle and tissue. I am lucky to have a veteran massage therapist (Howard Rontal) to do that for me.
  5. It’s really touch and go to get back into a vinyasa practice because I did not want to start too soon, but probably waited too long, even though the injury was still sensitive,  and I’m not the kind of guy who believes in practicing through the pain. How’s that for stringing together four contradictions in one sentence. But once I started returning to class, I became less preoccupied and more aware.
  6. When I had this interruption to the intensity of my yoga practice, plus other distraction, I notice that the drop-off in physical exercise had a ripple effect through my body and mind.
  7. Restarting is always disagreeable because I am constantly reminded about how far I have backslid (“Oh, God, I’m going to have sore muscles tomorrow, and I can’t do the jump-backs as well as before, and — this is an order, punk, drop into child’s pose, and give me 20 breaths!” ).
  8. Don’t stop doing yoga even when injured (give it a couple days rest, of course); just modify poses and pick sequences that won’t stress out the problem area.

Well, you get the point. I’ve made it to about five classes in eight days so I am gradually get back to “normal.”